When we first visited Tiger Bay State Forest for the first edition of 50 Hikes in Central Florida nearly two decades ago, you could touch history.
In the uplands near Rima Ridge, crockery shards and old glass bottles lay on the bright white sands where homesteads once sat.
Metal flashing and the frames of beds used at the Stillman Turpentine Camp sat forgotten under the pines.
Sadly, despite being protected as archaeological finds, those artifacts have vanished. But the land’s deep history still remains, and is interpreted at kiosks at various trailheads.
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Location: Daytona Beach
Headquarters: 29.119999, -81.178215
Address: 4316 W International Speedway Blvd, Daytona Beach
Fees: $2 per person day use fee at some entry points
Restrooms: Varies, but often available at trailheads where a fee is charged.
Land manager: Florida Forestry Service
Leashed dogs welcome. Where applicable, day use fees are payable at a self-pay station at the trailhead.
Allowed uses varies by entry point but include biking, hiking, hunting, fishing, equestrian use, and camping.
Forest headquarters are along US 92 (International Speedway Blvd). Otherwise, the main entrances for exploration are Rima Ridge Rd, an unpaved road connecting south from SR 40 to Indian Lake Recreation Area, and Indian Lake Rd leading north from US 92 to meet it. See map above.
About the Forest
Bounded to the north by SR 40 between Ormond Beach and Barberville, and to the south by Interstate 4, the forest is bisected by US 92.
Indian Lake Recreation Area is the main destination of interest in the forest for those who are visiting for a touch of nature.
It is where the 1920s Boy Scout camp once stood, and later, a sawmill. The lake and its surroundings are quite beautiful as just a picnic ground.
It also has a long boardwalk out into the lake and a trailhead for a 2.1-mile hiking loop.
Additional entrances to the forest are along US 92 just west of the park headquarters. With the exception of the old brick portion of Old DeLand Rd, these are unpaved.
Old DeLand Rd and Clark Bay Rd run north from the westbound lanes of US 92, while Dukes Island Rd and Woody Rd Loop run south from the eastbound lanes.
The forest contains a mosaic of habitats, including cypress strands near the south end, scrub and scrubby flatwoods along Rima Ridge, and scattered stretches of pine flatwoods.
The timber company that owned this forest ripped out a good bit of native pine habitat to create pine plantations.
You’ll encounter planted pines throughout the forest, although habitat restoration is ongoing to restore more natural pine flatwoods.
Between them all, the lowlying areas are bayhead swamps. The use of the word “bay” is key to understanding this forest. In an inland context, bay means bayhead swamp.
A massive swamp forest, Tiger Bay is an important recharge area for the region, where rainfall soaks into the uplands and seeps into the swamp.
Only three trails are designated as hiking trails at Tiger Bay State Forest, totaling less than 5 miles of hiking between them.
If you include the multi-use trails at the north end of the forest primarily in place for equestrian use, there are nearly 20 miles of loop and linear hikes possible from four separate trailheads in this forest.
Pershing Highway Interpretive Trail
With a trailhead along US 92, this easy-to-follow mile-long linear trail showcases an important piece of regional history.
It’s a walk into the woods down a piece of a brick road started in 1917 to link together Daytona Beach, DeLand, and New Smyrna Beach.
Known as the Pershing Triangle, this was one of Florida’s earliest highways. It remained in use until after World War II.
A kiosk at the far end of the hike provides details about the importance of this road as well as period photos. Benches are strategically placed along the trail.
Buncombe Hill Hiking Trail
A trail in the Trailwalker Program for Florida State Forests, the 2.1-mile Buncombe Hill Hiking Trail makes a loop north from Indian Lake into scrub and pine flatwoods.
It was here that the turpentine industry thrived, tapping pines for their sap to make turpentine and other naval stores. The north end of the loop was the location of a turpentine camp.
Rattlesnake Pond Hiking Trail
At the southernmost end of the forest, the Rattlesnake Pond Hiking Trail is a half-mile loop around its namesake pond, within earshot of traffic on Interstate 4 but not directly accessible from that highway.
Biking and Equestrian Trails
The northern portion of the forest is where you’ll find an extensive network of equestrian trails that are also open to off-road biking and hiking. Expect to encounter some soft sand on the trails along Rima Ridge.
Just south of SR 40 along Rima Ridge Rd is the Rima Ridge trailhead, providing direct access to 6.6 miles of trails.
Continue south on Rima Ridge Rd to Bennett Field Campground, which has a 2.4 mile loop around it. There is a 3 mile connector to the North Trails, so you can do 15 miles along the trail network from here.
Cyclists may also ride the Pershing Highway, a 2-mile round-trip, as well as forest roads throughout this state forest.
Tram Road Equestrian Campground is a popular destination for equestrians since it has direct access to the equestrian trails of the Rima Ridge Tract.
Other campers should plan to use Bennett Field Campground, which is farther south along Rima Ridge Rd. Leashed pets welcome.
It is a six site primitive campground with a shared vault toilet. Five sites can handle campers or small RVs, and one is tent only. They are oak canopied and natural surfaced.
Each has a picnic table and grill, but there is no water or electricity. Bring your own water for your cooking needs. Plan to pack out all trash.
Primitive campsites must be reserved in advance. Fee is $9 per site, up to 5 people. Your food must be protected from bears, as they are common here.
Indian Lake Recreation Area is an easy-to-reach destination for birding with a long boardwalk ideal for scanning the marshy shoreline. Covered picnic benches at the shoreline provide shade.
Anglers are welcome to try their luck at Rattlesnake Pond, Indian Lake, and the ponds along the Woody Road Loop.
A current FWC freshwater fishing license is required. Picnic tables and a portable toilet are provided at Indian Lake.
Seasonal hunting is permitted in Tiger Bay State Forest in accordance with FWC regulations for fall deer season and spring turkey season.
Certain parts of the forest are entirely off-limits to hunting during those open seasons to protect other visitors, such as those to the Pershing Highway exhibits.
Please consult the FWC Hunt Dates link below for a map of permitted hunting zones and exact dates of upcoming hunts.
See our photos of Tiger Bay State Forest
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
A linear hike between state park day use areas at Bulow Plantation Ruins and Bulow Creek, the Bulow Woods Trail parallels the flow of a freshwater creek near the sea
Walk in the footsteps of the Timucua beneath the ancient oaks at Tomoka State Park, where the village of Nocoroco was a thriving community on a bountiful set of rivers
While pancakes and De Leon Springs go hand-in-hand thanks to the popular Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant, the natural beauty of De Leon Springs is the reason to visit